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Staples ramps up mcommerce via vendor-driven endless aisle

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December 5, 2014

Staples Exchange platform

Staples Exchange platform

With mcommerce sales growing quickly, Staples is jockeying to hold onto its role as an ecommerce leader by opening its dedicated mobile site to direct sales from vendors.

The strategy borrows a page from Amazon’s playbook and points to consumers’ growing comfort with purchasing an array of products from their smartphones. The new Staples Exchange platform will help the retailer widen its reach in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer capacities.

“As we continue to enhance our mobile shopping experience, adding more products and services for our customers to choose from is a top priority,” said Faisal Masud, executive vice president of global ecommerce at Staples, Seattle. “Staples Exchange will allow us to bring even more suppliers onto Staples’ ecommerce channels and will offer improved order tracking for customers, making it even easier for them to quickly get the products they need to succeed.”

Rebooting
The solution also hopes to make it easy for suppliers to offer products to Staples customers and is a unified platform that allows vendors to sell through all of Staples’ ecommerce channels with multiple integration options.

Staples does not require vendors to use a third party that charges integration fees. Instead, they are given a single portal to enroll with all of Staples’ sites, including Staples.com, but also the forthcoming Staples Advantage, Staples Canada and Quill.com that should be available in 2015.

Once vendors enroll, they can upload their products and start receiving orders with free access to real-time alerts and self-service tools to manage their inventory.

Staples customers should be happy with the solution that grants them with a larger assortment of products, post-shipment order tracking from vendors and greater insight into product inventory.

Vendors will also enjoy a real-time and historical reporting dashboard, an automated onboarding program provided by Staples, visibility of their order life cycle and the ability to assign access for employees based on their role through the platform

“This ‘consolidated marketplace approach allows Staples to widen the breadth of products it offers and limit expensive wholesale purchase and storage overhead,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. “Large, heavy items are especially relevant, such as office desks and chairs, especially as the Amazon-lead ‘free shipping’ trend deepens in online retail.

“Since the vendors ship direct while the sale takes place through the trusted Staples ecommerce interface, the ‘endless aisle’ concept can be tapped into,” he said. “Staples is taking a page from Amazon, Wayfair, or other online ‘malls’ that build traffic and then leverage it by allowing qualified, carefully screened vendors access to their customer base, via ‘hidden’ consumer direct sales.

“This can work well for the vendor too, as long as they are able to ship consumer-direct and the margin split with Staples is favorable. As mobile commerce grows as a percentage of total online sales revenue, Staples will take advantage, especially since they have a dedicated mobile site, versus a ‘necessarily derivative responsive design offering.”

Staples plans to enhance the platform in the future to let vendors update product costs and give them access their product catalogs.

Supplies interested in working with Staples can go to Staples.com/staples-exchange.

Staying afloat
Mobile plays a big role in a recent omnichannel push from Staples, including the retailer’s first iPad application and the ability to purchase online and pick up in-store.

The offerings that came available in September are intended to make it easier for customers to shop however and wherever they want, something more retailers are focusing on as mobile shopping continues to grow. For Staples’ important business customer base, omnichannel experiences are particularly important as these customers are often on the go and do not want to delay shopping until they are in front of a desktop (see story).

Staples’ smart home and office platform called Connect is growing with the recent integration of wearable technology.

The Staples Connect service consists of a mobile and desktop application that links to a hub, enabling users to communicate with enabled appliances and electronics no matter where they are. The smart home and office platform launched late last year, with Staples reporting that the native iPad app is the most downloaded Connect app (see story).

“Staples is continually expanding its assortment through a curated selection, versus an open marketplace platform, as we build on our vision to provide businesses with every product they need to succeed,” Mr. Masud said.

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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